Dry Fly Fishing — The Stop and Drop

by | Aug 6, 2019 | 12 comments

A backcast loop unfolds, parallel to the rolling current. The tapered fly line straightens and joins the rod tip on its forward path. It punches through the wet air with a second loop — a horseshoe arc with all the power and energy needed to drive a bushy Royal Wulff to the target.

The rod tip stops above that target — in vertical alignment with the mark, but well above the water’s surface. Tip stops high. Leader shoots out and releases its power. Fly reaches the end of the line. Then the rod tip drops. The line recoils in s-curves as the dropping rod pushes more depth into those bends and arcs.

Fly lands and drifts. Fish eats. Perfection.

That’s the stop and drop. And this simple move is the key to good dead drifts with a dry fly. That’s it.

Baseline

The stop and drop is the base for every dry fly cast that I make.

Variations abound, and river structures force me around obstacles and under branches. Currents adjoining my target water require a slight reach mend toward the bank side, or the speed of a side current demands that I push an upstream curve-cast just before the power stroke — before the stop and drop.

All of these variations are offshoots from a solid trunk, from the pillar of good dry fly casting. If you want a good dead drift, you need s-curves. And s-curves are built by first stopping the rod tip and then dropping it.

Wild brown. Backbone of the fishery.

All the Elements

Troutbitten regulars understand how this site reads — it’s more of a book than a blog. I can’t cram all the pertinent skills into one article. And I learned a long time ago that it’s no fun to try. Instead, as seasons pass, I dig deeper and cast further into the pool of tactics that we’re all learning, because the other writings on here provide a background.

Here’s that background for the stop and drop:

READ: Troutbitten | Ten and Two

As Maclean’s daddy stressed, fly fishing “is an art performed on a four-count rhythm between ten and two o’clock.” There ya go. Do it.

READ: Troutbitten | Put more juice in the cast

Ten and two means nothing if you don’t build enough speed to form tight loops. Lazy casting sucks. Try harder.

READ: Troutbitten | Squeeze It

Good casting (for river trout) doesn’t require much arm movement. It’s a short, compact stroke that ends with a squeeze of the cork.

READ: Troutbitten | The George Harvey Leader Design

You might cast with perfect principles all day long and never achieve a decent drift. If your leader is poorly designed for the job, the dry fly will never have enough slack. Nothing beats the Harvey leader design. Ahhhh, those s-curves.

READ: Troutbitten | See the Dead Drift

You probably think you know what a good drift looks like. But look closer. Drag creeps in on a lot of presentations that we think are golden.

With Aiden

Again

With all of the above elements built into the cast, with the right leader, enough line speed, and a crisp stop around ten-o-clock, the line shoots out, above the target.

Immediately after that stop, the rod tip begins the drop, down to the water. Let’s say that it finishes parallel to the surface. The fly lands with s-curves in the leader behind it. Those curves are the slack necessary to unfold on the surface without tugging the dry fly off course — without dragging the fly.

The stop allows the leader to straighten out. With enough speed built in, the line recoils a bit as the fly reaches the end. By that time, the rod tip is already halfway down to the river’s surface, and the dropping rod pushes a little extra slack into the leader, forming a few more s-curves in the line.

Ideally, the fly and leader land at the same time. But most often, the air resistance of the fly holds it back a bit. And it lands just after the leader.

Challenges

All of this is easily achieved in open flats and pools. It’s harder in pocket water and in choppy runs with mixed currents. In fast water, a long drop may happen too slowly. And by the time the dry touches, the s-curves may be pulling out.

In such a case, it’s best to stop lower, beyond ten-o-clock, and power the leader forward, forcing the fly to land sooner. But there’s still a stop and drop. It just happens quicker.

I’ll cover all these techniques in future articles.

** Subscribe to Troutbitten and follow along. **

Tuck it?

Real quick: The casting motion I prefer with a dry is the same as the way I fish nymphs with a Mono Rig, with one slight difference at the end.

Yes, I cast nymphs on a tight line. I rarely lob them.

READ: Troutbitten | Fly Fishing Strategies — The Tuck Cast

READ: Troutbitten | It’s Casting not Lobbing

With a good casting stroke, I have full control over a tuck cast. And the tuck not only allows me to achieve depth quicker with my nymphs, but it permits me to choose the angle of entry as well.

As I swap over between dry flies with a Harvey leader and nymphs on a Mono Rig, there’s one key difference in the cast: I take out the drop.

For a tuck cast, I stop my rod tip around ten-o-clock and keep it there. I don’t drop it (much). So the nymph reaches the end of the straight leader and fires down into the water.

With dries on a Harvey leader, the dry reaches the end of the straight leader after my stop. The leader recoils a bit. And as I drop the rod tip toward the surface, s-curves are formed.

Both the tuck cast and the stop and drop provide the flies with some slack, but it’s achieved in different ways. Know what I mean?

Deep Summer

Vids

I realize this would all be better with a video. One of the most frequent requests I get is for video content of tactical concepts.

So I’ve teamed up with my friend, Josh Darling of Wilds Media, and we are working on these things. Josh has a great eye, with an artistic flare. We see the river the same way, and we’re drawn to the woods and water for parallel reasons. I’m excited about the video work.

But good things take time, so put on your patience pants.

Troutbitten videos are coming . . .

Fish hard, friends.

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 1000+ articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers.
Your support is greatly appreciated.

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

More from this Category

Dry Fly Fishing — Back Door, Side Door, Front Door | When the first cast matters most: Part Two

Dry Fly Fishing — Back Door, Side Door, Front Door | When the first cast matters most: Part Two

When fishing dries, the cautious angler has many chances to fool a rising trout. Start behind the trout at the back door. Next move over and try the side door, beside the trout. Then try going right down the middle and through the front door.

Making consecutive casts with a dry fly produces often enough to believe that the next cast will seal the deal. But there’s a lot more to it . . .

Fly Casting — Shoot Line on the Back Cast

Fly Casting — Shoot Line on the Back Cast

For better casting, for more options after the power stroke, for more available adjustments regarding where the line will end up, shoot most or all of the necessary line on the backcast. And if you’re really good, do it with no extra false casting . . .

Here’s how and why . . .

Bob’s Fly Casting Wisdom

Bob’s Fly Casting Wisdom

In my early twenties I drove a delivery van for a printing company while finishing the last few semesters of my English degree. Life was pretty easy back then, and I spent much of my leisure time playing guitar and fishing small backcountry streams for wild trout. It was a tight-quarters casting game. And making the transition from the five-foot spinning rod of my youth to a much longer fly rod gave me some trouble. Until, that is, I received one of the simplest and most transformative pieces of fly fishing advice . . .

Dry Flies on the Mono Rig

Dry Flies on the Mono Rig

For many years, I never much considered casting dry flies on a Mono Rig as a viable option. I enjoyed the art of casting a dry with a traditional fly line. And if you asked me about dries on a long leader system back then, I’d shake my head and tell you something about using the right tool for the job. But in the last few years, much of that has changed. And now, I suggest that a long Mono Rig is, in fact, the right tool for the job — sometimes.

There’s a time and place for everything. And fishing dry flies on the Mono Rig has become one of my favorite ways to approach trout, not just because it’s a convenient and quick variation when swapping over from a tight line nymphing rig, but because it is stunningly effective . . .

Three Styles of Dry Dropper: #3 — Tight Line Dry Dropper

Three Styles of Dry Dropper: #3 — Tight Line Dry Dropper

It’s the effectiveness of a nymphing rig and the excitement of a dry fly rig, with boosted catch rates.

In this four part series covering dry dropper styles, I’ve saved the best for last.

I prefer methods that lend excellent control to the angler. And tight line rigs, with direct contact as the primary feature, are built for just that. Add a dry fly to the rig and tight line dry dropper is the best of all possible worlds . . .

Fly Casting — Don’t Reach

Fly Casting — Don’t Reach

But, what about that pretty magazine pose? What about those videos of nymph fishermen with their arms high and extended, reaching the fly rod out to maximum length? It’s silly. It’s unnecessary. And it won’t last for long.

Reaching is an unsustainable body position at any age. Reaching the arm takes power from the forward cast. And by keeping the elbow in a natural and relaxed position, casting accuracy and delivery options improve dramatically . . .

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.

12 Comments

  1. Thanks for your articles as each time I read, re-read and apply then read again I learn more. Clarify for me your use of 10 o’clock stop? I thought 10 was on the backhand and 1 or 2 was on the foreward. Mind you I don’t strictly cast by numbers

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words, Mike. Glad it all helps.

      Respectfully, I believe you’re thinking too hard about it. But . . . if you are right handed and you are casting on you forehand then 10:00 is your forward stopping point (approximately). If you are on your backhand, then 2:00 is your forward stopping point (approximately).

      BUT, that’s all very general. And don’t let any complicated thoughts stand in the way of progress.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
    • Turn your clock around.

      Reply
  2. Videos! Yes, thanks, dude.

    Reply
  3. As Gary Borger likes to say about the importance of drag free dry fly drifts, “On a scale of 1 to 10, drag is 1,000; and everything else is a 5”.

    When I switched to Borger’s “3-point” grip it was a magical transformation in regards to loop formation.
    The mechanic of this grip prevent the wrist from bending too far back which opens up the casting loop. When the 3-point grip is used it is literally impossible to throw anything but tight loops.

    http://www.garyborger.com/2012/12/21/three-point-grip-part-i/

    Reply
  4. Hola Dom,

    This is a bit of a tangent… Are Amadou patches worthwhile for drying out dry flies?

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Don’t waste your money. Instead bring along a few half-sheets of Bounty paper towel. Super absorbent and cost just pennies. You an even save and dry them for re-use. The quicker picker upper beats Amadou in every way.

      Reply
      • Thank you Dom and Rick

        Reply
        • Cheers.

          Reply
    • I’ve never used one, so I can’t speak to it. All I know is that the small, synthetic chamois that I carry does a great job. I never seem to need anything more.

      I saw the same ad from Loon regarding the Amadou patch that the rest of you probably saw today. Wow, this is a small industry!

      Reply
  5. Finally, information that I can really follow! Thank you so much.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

Pin It on Pinterest